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Pulmonary Hypertension Care

surgeons perform PTE surgery

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 Cardiovascular Care Locations

Pulmonary vascular disease affects the blood vessels between the heart and the lungs. This can make breathing difficult and affect your ability to have an active, healthy life.

UC San Diego Health is a worldwide leader in the diagnosis, treatment and research of pulmonary vascular disease, including pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary embolism.

U.S. News & World Report - UC San Diego Health Ranked Nationally in Cardiology & Heart Surgery

Led by Nick Kim, MD, our pulmonary vascular disease program includes experts from pulmonary and cardiovascular services and emphasizes leading-edge treatments in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) and chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH).


Pulmonary Hypertension Diagnosis

Diagnosing pulmonary hypertension can be difficult because many of the signs and symptoms are similar to other lung diseases, like asthma and COPD. In many cases, our team of specialists will correct a diagnosis – finding CTEPH when another form of pulmonary hypertension has been assumed, or when the patient has been living with a misdiagnosis. A correct diagnosis is critical for successful outcomes.

Diagnosis may include the following tests:

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH)

UC San Diego Health is a leader in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). PAH is a progressive disorder characterized by high pressure in the arteries that bring deoxygenated blood to the lungs from the right side of the heart. Without effective treatment, PAH can progress to right-sided heart failure and cause premature death.

Pulmonary hypertension is typically first detected with an echocardiogram – a common noninvasive test used frequently for screening heart conditions. Physicians then refer their patients to UC San Diego Health for a pulmonary hypertension workup to determine the exact type of pulmonary hypertension.

The earlier a definitive diagnosis of PAH is made, the more therapies are available. Early diagnosis and treatment help avoid the need for escalating therapy such as complex intravenous medications or lung transplantation.

Advanced Treatment for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

UC San Diego is a hub for advanced therapies for pulmonary arterial hypertension. We were actively involved in the clinical trials for all current FDA-approved PAH therapies. Today, we remain engaged in clinical trials examining new and improved treatments for PAH and other forms of pulmonary hypertension.

The goal of PAH therapy is to improve symptoms and quality of life, and prevent heart failure and premature death. Current medications for PAH vary by therapeutic target and how each drug is delivered (oral, inhaled, subcutaneous or intravenous).

UC San Diego pulmonary vascular specialists make use of all PAH therapeutics in order to determine the best treatment for each patient. Follow-up for patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension is individualized, depending on their response to treatment.

If PAH does not respond to treatment, we work closely with our lung transplantation program for evaluation and placement on the transplant list.

Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension (CTEPH)

Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) arises from repeated or unresolved pulmonary embolism – or clots in the pulmonary arteries.

The pulmonary arteries bring deoxygenated blood from the right side of the heart to each lung to be oxygenated. When the blood is oxygenated, the pulmonary veins bring the blood back to the left side of the heart, which pumps the oxygenated blood through the body. 

PTE: Advanced Treatment for CTEPH

Designated a Center of Excellence by the American College of Chest Physicians, we have the highest success rate worldwide for pulmonary thromboendarterectomy (PTE) surgery, a complex surgery used to treat CTEPH.

Until we developed PTE surgery at UC San Diego Health, the treatment for CTEPH was lung transplantation. PTE is now saving thousands of lives worldwide.

Our team also offers balloon pulmonary angioplasty (BPA) and medical therapy for individuals with CTEPH who are not candidates for PTE surgery.

Clinical Trials and Registry Studies

UC San Diego participates in registry studies, which are important for better understanding rare diseases such PAH and CTEPH. Through registry studies, physician-scientists are able to pool data from multiple medical centers to better understand disease progression and outcomes for different therapies.

We offer a variety of clinical trials for appropriate patients. If you are interested, talk to your physician for more information on these trials.

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